LIVE VIDEO: WUSA 9 at 6pm    Watch
 

Christmas Rush: Flight Delays Blow Into Northeast

11:15 PM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +
  • FILED UNDER

(USA Today) - More than 1,400 flights were canceled Thursday as a major winter storm took aim at the Midwest.

Friday it was the Northeast's turn to get in on the act while a new storm creates havoc in San Francisco.

For passengers, Friday's problems are combining with residual problems in the Midwest to create a major travel headache -- just as pre-Christmas travel hits its crescendo.

Cancellations are not piling up in the Northeast today at the same rate that they did in the Midwest on Thursday. But fliers are facing hundreds cancellations and severe wind-related delays today at airports the Northeast. And, to the West, a storm coming ashore in California has snarled flights at San Francisco International while lingering delays and cancellations are hampering operations at a half-dozen Midwest airports.

Flight-tracking service FlightAware.com calculates that a cumulative 406 arrivals and departure cancellations have been reported in the United States today. The hardest-hit airports: San Francisco (111 canceled flights), Newark (75), Chicago O'Hare (65), New York LaGuardia (64), Philadelphia (42), Detroit (41), Minneapolis (21), Milwaukee (16), Traverse City, Mich. (12), and JFK (11) airports.


And, when flights aren't canceled, many travelers are dealing with significant delays. FlightAware says flights at New York's three big airports -- JFK, LaGuardia and Newark -- are being delayed anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.

At San Francisco, peak delays are pushing four hours while shorter delays -- averaging an hour or less -- are being reported at numerous airports. They include weather-related delays Chicago, Detroit and Boston; runway construction delays in Fort Lauderdale; and congestion delays in Memphis and at the L.A.-area airports.

Earlier delays at Philadelphia had subsided after reaching 3 hours earlier today, though sporadic problems are possible throughout the day.

Another major trouble spot today: San Francisco, where wind and low visibility are contributing to delays as long as four hours on some arriving flights. Conditions there could see marginal improvement by this afternoon, but current forecasts called for poor weather at the airport Saturday.

Strong winds and lake-effect snow are in the forecast for several other major airports -- including Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester and Erie (Pa.) -- though all tend to handle winter weather well.

Today's disruptions come after airlines canceled more than 1,400 flights across the Midwest on Thursday because of a strong winter storm - the same one that's bringing the blustery conditions to the Northeast today.

Particularly hard hit Thursday was Chicago, where more than 490 arrivals and departures canceled at Chicago O'Hare, according to FlightAware.com. The total was 149 across town at Chicago Midway.

Southwest had suspended all of its Thursday evening flights at both Chicago Midway and Milwaukee, though the carrier had resumed its operations in both cities this morning.

Lingering cancellations were being reported today in the region, with 55 flights (arrivals and departures) canceled today (Friday) at Chicago O'Hare, 16 at Milwaukee and 6 at Midway.

Combined, the two-day cancellation tally at the two Chicago airports alone now stands at more than 700. That's also left thousands of travelers with an unplanned itinerary change, meaning many are likely scrambling today to find an available seat to get to their destination in time for the holiday.

Additionally, O'Hare and Midway both are major connecting hubs, meaning problems have spilled over to create disruptions at airports in other parts of the country.

For example, Thursday flight cancellations in places like Los Angeles, Tampa, Houston and Charlotte included at least a few that had been scheduled to fly to or from one of the Chicago airports.

Similar disruptions could result from today's problems in the East.

New York JFK is a hub for three big U.S. airlines - American, Delta and JetBlue - while Newark is one of United's biggest hubs. Complementing its JFK operation, Delta also runs a smaller domestic hub at LaGuardia. And US Airways runs one of its biggest hubs at Philadelphia.

Disruptions at those airports could ripple out and affect flights at other airports. For example, a flight between Memphis and Denver could become delayed or canceled if the plane or crew schedule to operate the flight gets bogged down in the windy Northeast.

As for Thursday's disruptions, the flight chaos was not limited to the Chicago and Milwaukee airports.

In the Wisconsin capital of Madison, The Associated Press reports the city's commercial airport was "eerily quiet" Thursday as three of the four airline scrapped their entire schedules there today. Only two United Airlines flights operated Thursday at the city's Dane County Regional Airport , according to spokesman Brent McHenry.

Other airports with notable cancellation tallies for Thursday (data from FlightAware): Minneapolis/St. Paul (89 arrivals and departures canceled); Dallas/Fort Worth (53); Denver (51); Atlanta (43); Washington National (42); New York LaGuardia (40); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (37); Omaha (33; Des Moines (31); Quad City/Moline, Ill. (28); Charlotte (25) and St. Louis (18).

Not all of those cancellations totals can be directly traced to the storm, though storm certainly accounted for many of them. At Minneapolis, it's easy to imagine the high total given the airport's near-hourly connections to both Chicago airports as well as to many of the smaller airports in the region.

At other airports, it's likely that the cancellation totals were the result of mixed of factors.

The cancelled flights at Atlanta and Washington National, for example, likely were not all related to the Midwest storm. But many can be traced to cancellations on flights to or from Chicago, Milwaukee and other cities in the Midwest.

Most Watched Videos